We all know the excitement of making a purchase. We place the order and eagerly await the “your order has shipped!” email. If it takes too long from the time we place the order to the shipment confirmation, or worse, the product arrives damaged, all that excitement fades quickly.
As a business owner, you know that customer loyalty is tied to your shipping and fulfillment speed. If you can decrease the time between the order placement and the product arriving at your customer’s door, you can gain a valuable customer for life.
A lot needs to happen on your end, however. If you want to give customers a great experience each time, you need to plan ahead to streamline the process and remove as many delays as possible.
Discover how to build an efficient shipping process, from the moment a customer places an order to the moment it arrives on their doorstep.
Plan the Shipping Process with the Customer in Mind
Fulfillment is just as important as shipping. The faster you can fulfill an order after it’s placed, the sooner the customer can receive their product. Even if you choose the fastest available shipping, a lagging fulfillment process can create a negative experience.
Steps in the Fulfillment and Shipping Process
Customer Places an Order
When a customer makes a purchase, you have to check that the product is in stock and start the processing. This may mean coordinating with the supplier to purchase the product and stock it in advance, or sending your products to a fulfillment center to be processed and shipped by a third-party logistics company.
The Order is Processed
Order processing typically includes verifying all the information for the order, such as the customer’s payment information and the shipping address. While this may be done manually, automation tools can take care of this time-consuming process for you. In addition, automation updates the customer in real time about the order status, so they can feel confident that they’ll receive their product.
The Order is Shipped
After verification, the order is processed and ready for shipment. Similar to Amazon, most businesses choose the most cost-effective and efficient shipping method available, based on the customer’s delivery address. The customer may also have the option to choose standard or expedited shipping options at greater cost.
You have several options for order fulfillment, such as self-fulfillment (do-it-yourself) or dropshipping. A lot of businesses choose to outsource the shipping process to a third-party logistics partner, however, which does a lot of the work for you. Third-party logistics partners may pick up and pack the product, warehouse it, and ship it, saving you plenty of hassle.
When you’re choosing between self-fulfillment, dropshipping, and third-party logistics, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each. Dropshipping may have hidden costs, and you’re not in control of the process. If the wrong product is shipped or it’s not packed properly, it reflects on you.
Self-fulfillment puts you in control, but it adds a lot of time and work to your day-to-day. If you’re trying to scale, self-fulfillment may not be manageable.
Third-party logistics partners have the setup to streamline shipping and handle all aspects of the fulfillment and air freight shipping process, leaving you to focus on your business.
Shipping Process Goals
Ultimately, the goal of an efficient shipping process is to deliver a product to a customer as soon as possible. Most retailers offer shipping within a day or two, so customers have come to expect this level of service.
In addition, you have to make sure that the right product is delivered to the right customer. If you ship the wrong product or ship it to the wrong address, it adds a lot of time and expense to the process and disappoints the customer. The same is true of a product that’s packed poorly and arrives damaged.
Accidents happen, but your process should be designed toward limiting these errors as much as possible.
Creating Your Shipping Process
Select a Software Stack
You can find numerous software solutions to help with the shipping process, such as Shippo, Aftership, and Shipstation. Any shipping software has its advantages, disadvantages, and features, however, so it’s important to consider all your options.
Design a Verification Process
The verification process is a big part of streamlining order processing. Select software options that can verify the product you’re shipping is the product the customer ordered. Ecommerce management or inventory management solutions usually have a verification system included, but you can do it manually with the product name, part number, product category, or SKU.
You must also verify the customer’s delivery address to ensure the product is shipped to a valid address. Ecommerce and shipping platforms often have address verification features that ensure the address is standardized, valid, and accurate.
Stock Up on Shipping Supplies
If you’re fulfilling orders yourself, it’s important to have supplies on hand so you’re ready to pack a product and ship it once the order is verified. While certain products will ship in their own packaging, such as electronics, you may need supplies like bubble wrap or multiple box sizes to handle orders with multiple products.
If you’re shipping perfume or other flammable products, you’ll also need special labeling to indicate it’s a hazardous or restricted shipping item.
While it’s not necessary for shipping, it’s good to include a thank you card or other token of your appreciation to your customer for their business. If your shipping process is inefficient, a thank you note won’t do much to help, but it makes a huge difference in an otherwise positive experience.
Design Your Ideal Shipping Process
The fulfillment and shipping process has an incredible impact on user experience, loyalty, and retention. If you want to “wow’ the customer every time, design your shipping process around delivering the right product quickly and smoothly.